From Green Right Now Reports
Canada is in the process of mandating protection of 470,000 square miles of boreal forest in one of the largest conservation and climate change initiatives in history.
“It’s our gift to future generations,” said Alan Latourelle, chief executive officer of Parks Canada, the agency managing the nation’s parks. “We’re the last generation that can do that.”
The area affected amounts to about half the size of the Louisiana Purchase or five times the size of the U.S. National Park system. The land would be protected in perpetuity from damming, mining and logging.
Canada’s peat bogs and forests store 233 billion tons of carbon, according to some estimates, or almost one third of the carbon stored in the Earth’s atmosphere. More than 80 percent of that is stored within the country’s boreal region, and politicians are writing protections for that carbon into the law.
“This is the first time in Canada, and quite possibly the world, where a government is creating a law that intends to protect carbon,” said Janet Sumner, president of the Wildlands League, an Ontario non-profit.
The boreal forest spans the northern reaches of the globe, 6.5 million square miles of a unique ecosystem that stretchs across northern Russia, Scandinavia, Canada and Alaska. It makes up 25 percent of the world’s forests, and is more intact than the Brazilian Amazon forest.
It contains forests, lakes, bogs, marshes and rivers, and is filled with spruce, aspen and birch trees.
The conservation drive is being carried out by the three provinces of Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba; the Northwest Territories; a key logging industry association; environmentalists and Parks Canada.
There are two main goals: The first will preserve half of Canada’s northern boreal region, about 470,000 square miles, by creating a network of parks off-limits to loggers, miners and other developers. The second will ensure that the other half is developed under stricter ecological standards.
The two goals involve almost 940,000 square miles – more than a quarter of Canada’s land mass. While only a small fraction of the necessary regulations currently are in place, conservationists hope to have the land fully protected within 15 years.
“Canada is setting a world record in the contest to save the world’s last great forests,” said Steve Kallick, Director of the Pew Environment Group’s International Boreal Conservation Campaign. “With this much of the forest protected, there’s going to be a natural regulator on the throttle of growth that will avoid the kind of climb, stall and crash cycle of development that you typically see on frontiers.”